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There is a striking omission from the Hebrew text of Genesis 1, on the second day of creation. It is the day when God creates Heaven, and the omission is that he does not see it as good. Every other day of creation has God seeing that his work is good, but not this one. The omission is so striking that the ancient Greek translation, the Septuagint, supplies what is missing in v. 8: “And God saw that it was good.”

Suppose the omission is deliberate, a piece of artistry rather than an oversight. What is it telling us? Perhaps we can learn from another striking moment in Genesis, which takes place in the next chapter, when instead of seeing his creation as good the LORD God looks at Adam and says, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (2:18). After all the times he saw his creation as good in Genesis 1, here what he sees is something that is not good. It’s a jarring word, but it resonates with the omission in the first chapter.

When God sees his work as good, Everett Fox suggests in the notes to his translation, The Five Books of Moses, it is “reminiscent of ancient Near Eastern descriptions of a craftsman being pleased with his work.” Aristotle uses the word “good” in a similar way, when he associates it with the final cause, the end of a process of coming into being, including the craftsman’s work of making or building something. The craftsman says, “It’s good!” when the work is completed. “All done!” we say in a resonant English phrase, corresponding to the underlying notion of the Latin term perfectus , which is to be thoroughly done or made, per-factus . Hence in the original sense of the term, the perfect is the completed. That is why an unfinished work of music is an opus imperfectum —not because it is flawed or blemished but because it is incomplete.

God does not see the work of the second day of creation as good because he knows it is unfinished. You might think that heaven is such a great and wondrous thing that it must be good in and of itself, but God does not see it that way. Heaven is not the perfection of God himself but a created thing, and it is not yet done being created when it is alone. The creation Genesis has to tell us of is heaven and earth together. The one without the other incomplete, imperfect, unfinished—not all done, and therefore not yet good.

And so it is with the man, Adam. You might think that man is such a great and wondrous thing that he is good in and by himself, but God does not see it that way. As heaven without earth is an unfinished work—not yet good—the man without his wife is not yet a completed creation. The craftsman is not satisfied until he sees the two together making one whole. We do not have humanity perfected until the two become one flesh.

So it is a profound teaching when Jesus instructs us to think about the law of marriage by reading what is said of the Creator in Genesis 1, that in the beginning “he made them male and female” (Matt. 19:4). That duality—the two who become one flesh—is the making of humanity, as necessary to the perfection of God’s craftsmanship as the joining of earth to heaven. To see male and female, man and woman, as if they did not belong together by nature is to miss the goodness of creation, which makes it what it is. What God has joined let no man put asunder.

More on: Genesis, Creation

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